Solving America’s gun problem: a modest proposal

Another week; another school shooting. The problem is the availability of guns in America. We have roughly as many guns as people. No other country comes close to this ignoble statistic. Our mental health problems and rates of violent crime don’t stand out compared to the rest of the world. It’s the gun violence that stands out, with school shooting just the tip of a blood-laden iceberg.

Anyone but a gun-crazed, NRA-nut is tired of the empty platitudes coming from our so-called political leaders. Our “thoughts and prayers” or calls for better mental health programs are delay tactics used by the cowards we put in office. We need real solutions. And I have a good start at one.

 Any effective solution to the American gun problem must address these factors.

  1. Honor the second amendment.
  2. Some people should not be allowed to bear arms.
  3. The solution must be easy to implement

First, the second amendment to the constitution limits what we can do to regulate access to guns.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Any solution must honor the second amendment. This amendment rests on a foundation of distrust of established power; an attitude that goes back to the roots of our nation. Gun rights activists are motivated by genuine patriotic dedication to the need for a citizenry to keep its own government in check. I wouldn’t want to take their guns away if I could.

Second, we should all be able to agree that there are people who should not have access to firearms. Violent criminals, the mentally ill, people on “terrorist watch lists,” and bastards who assault their domestic partners should not be able to bear arms. Citizens have the rights to bear arms, but law-abiding citizens also have the right to live without fear of being gunned down.

Third, laws that cannot be effectively enforced are worse than not having the laws at all. If you can’t enforce the law, it breeds contempt for the rule of law. Worse, laws that are impractical to enforce inhibit law abiding citizens from exercising their rights without providing any real benefit.

With these factors in mind, I propose the following solution to the gun problem in America. Create a simple mark that can be put on a driver’s license that indicates the holder of that license cannot buy guns, own guns, or purchase ammunition. Then make it a serious crime to sell a gun or ammunition, or even to loan a gun to someone, unless you first check their license to confirm they do not have that mark. There is no need for a computer system with lists of gun owners. You don’t need an internet connection to access a government database before selling a gun or ammunition. Just look at a person’s driver’s license and determine if they are allowed to buy guns (or ammunition).

Should someone be deemed unworthy of bearing arms, for whatever reason stipulated by law, confiscate their driver’s license (and their guns). When they get a replacement license, it will include the special mark. As long as people check the mark before granting access to guns or ammunition, we can decrease the chances that those unworthy of bearing arms will commit a violent gun crime.

This solution honors the three factors listed above. Law abiding citizens can own guns and buy ammunition. Communities can write laws (subject to normal constitutional review when needed) to define which people should not own guns. And the process required to enforce this access control is easy to implement. Gun-owners do not need to worry about databases a future government can use to track down law-abiding citizens who own guns. It can be implemented at gun shops, gun shows, and among friends loaning weapons to friends. This would work.

I do not claim, however, that this proposal on its own will fix our problems with guns in America. This is a first step. We still need to deal with the fact that most guns involved in crimes are not owned by the criminal. This is why my proposed solution applies to the sale of ammunition as well the guns themselves. People steal guns all the time, but unless they steal the ammunition too, they will need to buy it in order to cause serious harm with the guns.

Also, while mental health is used as a way to dodge dealing with flaws in our gun law, there is a point to those who raise this issue. Sane people don’t walk into schools and kill children or slaughter the audience at concerts. I know from experience that our mental health system is seriously flawed and needs a lot of work.

Finally, this proposal doesn’t deal with the fact that we have too many guns in America. Can anyone rationally defend the claim that we need as many guns as people in America?

If any steps we take to address the problems raised by guns in America are to have any real impact, we must first make it simple to enforce rules that keep guns away from people we all agree should not have guns. My proposal would be inexpensive to administer, easy to apply, and could replace many pages of complex laws governing transactions involving guns. Let’s make this rule a reality and instead of just complaining about guns in America, start doing something about it.



How Many School Shootings Have Taken Place So Far in 2018?

357 million guns in America, Washington Post estimate:

Guns per 100 people: Us (101), Serbia (58.21), Yemen (54.8), Cyprus (36.4)

New evidence confirms what gun rights advocates have said for a long time about crime: 8 out of 10 gun-crimes are not committed by lawful gun owners.